Chrysler CEO: Jeep Liberty, Dodge Nitro Replacements In the Works

Chrysler has been feverishly refreshing or replacing most -- if not all -- of its product portfolios over the past several months, but two models remain relatively untouched: the Jeep Liberty and its twin, the Dodge Nitro. Both soldier on unchanged, but not for long.

In an interview with Automotive News, Chrysler Group CEO Sergio Marchionne called out the Liberty and Nitro, both of which ride upon the KK platform, as “the most significant hole in our product portfolio.” The sales figures seem to back up those numbers. In 2010, Chrysler sold 49,564 Libertys, while Nitro sales only amounted to 22,618 units.

Those figures pale in comparison to other vehicles lumped into the small SUV category -- despite being much different (and more akin to Jeep’s Patriot and Compass models), the Ford Escape and Honda CR-V led the segment with sales of 191,026 and 203,714 vehicles, respectively.

The Liberty itself is all but confirmed to receive a replacement, but the Nitro appears to still be in limbo. When Chrysler rolled out its ambitious five-year product plan back in 2009, it noted a replacement for the Nitro was “under consideration.”

That appears to remain the case now -- Marchionne notes a replacement is being developed, but isn’t sure if it needs to be replaced with a Dodge-branded SUV. Chrysler is currently conducting consumer clinics on the proposed vehicles, and a final decision on the pair -- especially critical for the Nitro successor -- will be made within the next 40 days. If approved, one or both of the vehicles may reach the market in 2013.

As consumers increasingly favor smaller crossovers and SUVs, both Jeep and Dodge alike may have more success pursuing smaller car-based offerings. Unsurprisingly, such a model is certainly in Jeep’s future. Chrysler’s five-year plan shows both the Patriot and Compass being replaced by a single vehicle in 2013, likely based off Fiat’s C-Evo platform (which also underpins the Lancia Delta and Fiat Punto). A Jeep offering built from a Fiat B-segment subcompact architecture is also in the cards, but will likely be sold only outside North America.

Lee Coleman
I like my 2010 Dodge Nitro, but it has to big problems. one is the 20 inch wheels whitch I am replaceing next week with 17 inch tires and wheels. and the second problem is to stiff Suspension. with the 20 inch tires and wheels replaced and a look at the suspension , I feel I will have a real good off road SUV.
Steve
I think what's wrong with the liberty is the engine, I like the look of it, but it and the wrangler's engine are best put to use as a Yacht anchor. The Ford Explorer had the some problem and Ford in my opinion took the wrong approach, if they had put some effort into bringing the weight down (they have an Expedition after all and put the new engines in them my guess is it would have been very well received. I'm a Ford fan but do not like the new Explorer, it really isn't an explorer and shouldn't get the name a better name would be "vehicle for those that need a minivan but are too vain to buy one, so we are offering this to take that suckers' money"
Jerry Stigliano
I agree with kego. I test drove a Liberty in '08 and could not get past the underpowered and clunky 3.7l V6, with it's too-few gears, no manual shift mode (this is a Jeep, no?), cheap and overly square interior, poor fuel economy and alas, rear headrests that needed to be removed to fold the seats down. I do love the SkySlider roof, rain-sensing wipers and automatic climate control. Now if we could have fused the Liberty and Nitro we might have had something worth considering. I'm ready to buy in April '11 and highly doubt that Jeep will have anything by then. I was praying that the Pentastar V6 and new tranny would make it into the Wrangler Unlimited but I don't see that happening until the '12 MY. Too bad...I've wanted a Jeep my whole life but after the test drives I simply cannot make one of these my only vehicle. If not for the large size and higher price point (with all options), I would consider the Grand Cherokee but it's just not my style.
Scoremore
Chrysler's Sebring has drawn plenty of fire from the automotive press. Journalists have crucified this humble car for its chintzy interior, unrefined powertrains and inept suspension. Thankfully the company has thoroughly reworked it for 2011, giving it a sleeker design, a vastly updated interior and even a fresh name.I think Chrysler kept some of the same chassis lines of the Sebring on the 200 because from what I hear, they are going to have a new design for the 200 on Fiat-based platforms in two or three years, so they must have thought, "Why spend the money now when we're going to spend the money on an all-new car down the line.thanks for sharing this...
DAN SMITH
A tastefully refreshed Liberty after a serious trip to the Fat Farm and a sensible increase in muscle, would be a very attractive proposition. And that same machine wearing an incredibly seductive Alfa Romeo suit and benefiting from a high potency infusion of steroids would be irresistible. It's time for the Liberty/Alfa to become an Italian Seductress. Can you say "Brera GTA?"
kego53
The Liberty exterior doesn't look bad at all in its current form. It just needs the new 3.6 engine and upgraded interior along with improved suspension, trans etc. An evolution of the current design theme might be appropo. With these changes I would consider a Liberty as a replacement for my wife's 2004 GC in a year or so.

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